I am so excited for the new tennis season to get under way and with just weeks until the first grand slam of the year, I will be previewing the new campaign, as this is the most wide-open field we have had in a long time.
From the ‘greatest of all time’ to the ‘Next-gen’, there will be plenty that will want to make a name for themselves. Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer will want to maintain their dominance after sharing all four grand slam titles. Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic will want to regain their dominance. Whereas, the rest of the field will want to dominate.
Rafael Nadal ended the year as the world number one, as he had a fantastic end to the season, winning the US, as he beat Kevin Anderson to the crown. He also claimed, ‘La Decima’ as he has now won 10 Monte-Carlo Masters events, 10 Barcelona crowns, and 10 French Open grand slams. However, the 31-year-old is struggling with yet another knee injury, as he pulled out midway through the Nitto ATP Finals in London last November. He also pulled out of an invitation tournament in Abu Dhabi, and will also not take part in Brisbane next week. So, the question is, will the Spaniard be physically fit enough to go the distance at the Australian Open in Melbourne this coming January?
Roger Federer proved his worth once again by winning his eighth Wimbledon title and yet another Australian Open to his name. He surprised many by winning his 18th and 19th grand slam crown, and was brimming with confidence after having a perfect start to the season, also winning in Indian Wells and in Miami. Aged 36, will this renaissance continue or will the twilight of his career go out?
The year-end world number one of 2016, Andy Murray will look to make a serious comeback charge after he finished the season as world number 16 and just the solitary title to his name, winning in Dubai. The 30-year-old is more than likely to make a rise up the rankings at the end of the Australian Open as he crashed out in the third round, losing to Mischa Zverev, so a good tournament should get him back into the top 10, just like Federer did 12 months ago.
Novak Djokovic also struggled last season with injuries, as the former world number one looks to make a strong return to the top of the game. The Serb also pulled out of the invitational tournament in Dubai and hopes that he is fit enough for Melbourne. He failed to make a grand slam final last year, and also failed to win a Masters 1000 event, losing to Alexander Zverev in Rome on the clay.
Grigor Dimitrov won the biggest tournament of his career last year as he won the season-ending Nitto ATP Finals, beating Belgian’s David Goffin to the title. Is the 26-year-old, now entering the prime of his career, starting to fulfil his potential. The world number three also won in Cincinnati, beating Nick Kyrgios and also made the semi-final of the Australian Open, losing to Nadal. There is still a lot of life left in the Bulgarian, but he needs to step up if he wants to call himself a grand slam champion.
One player that has certainly impressed the tennis world is the German, Alexander ‘Sascha’ Zverev, who looked very professional in some of the finals he played last season. He lifted two Masters 1000 titles, beating Djokovic in Rome, and Federer in Montreal. One criticism is that he has failed to make a grand slam quarter-final, but he is only 20 years old, and as he will have better draws at grand slams knowing that he is the world number four, he should have much easier runs in tournaments.
This season will be huge for players like Dominic Thiem, Marin Cilic, and Stanislas Wawrinka, as they were all close to big things last season, but need to go one step further. The Austrian is more than likely to win the French Open, in a few years’ time, but the 24-year-old will be looking to knock on the door sooner rather than later, as he has made two consecutive semi-finals at Roland-Garros. The Croatian made the final of Wimbledon last year, losing in straight sets to Federer, but I feel that the 2014 US Open champion can win more grand slams, but it won’t be easy for the 29-year-old. The Swiss number two, also made the final of a grand slam last year losing to Nadal in Paris. The 31-year-old also lost to Federer in Indian Wells earlier on in the season, but can he push for the world number one spot?
My dark horse will be the jubilant Juan Martín del Potro, as he has the ability to beat anyone on the circuit. The 29-year-old won the 2009 US Open, and the 2016 Davis Cup with Argentina. However, the world number 11 has been plagued by injuries throughout his career, so keeping fit will be half the battle for him, but if he’s 100%, he can be the most dangerous player on tour.
Other than Sascha Zverev, who else from the ATP Next-gen will breakthrough into the current generation? South Korea’s Hyeon Chung won the inaugural ATP Next-Gen finals in Milan and will look to continue that form into 2018. Honourable mentions go to Denis Shapovalov who beat Rafael Nadal in the Montreal Masters back in August. And Australia’s Nick Kyrgios made the final of the Cincinnati Masters and looks dangerous on court if his temperament doesn’t get in the way.
It is going to be one hell of a season which starts with the Australian Open series, and the first grand slam starting on the 15th January 2018. Who will win the first grand slam of the year? Who will finish the year as world number one?
Here are my predictions for the grand slams:
Australian Open: Grigor Dimitrov
French Open: Rafael Nadal
Wimbledon: Novak Djokovic
US Open: Alexander “Sascha” Zverev
Season-ending No.1: Rafael Nadal